Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features
opted to change the title from The
Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a nourish, dour,
subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its
introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch
here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked
action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the
main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his
earlier (co-directed) John Wick.
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Along with Pain &
Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed
as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess;
the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by
turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most
deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned.
Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas,
the Martin Scorsese film from which The
Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.
I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew
much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such
a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of
the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall
Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.
The ‘Burbs (1989) (SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs
is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you
masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch,
or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins.
Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences
by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and
the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely
nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its
foothold in the Dante pantheon.
It came out at a time when there had been a
good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and
it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away;
you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say
that some, as with say The Big Lebowski,
“got it” on fi…
The Avengers 2.7: The Decapod A title suggesting some variety of monstrous aquatic threat for Steed and Julie Stevens’ Venus Smith. Alas, the reality is much more mundane. The Decapod refers to a Mongo-esque masked wrestler, one who doesn’t even announce “I will destroy you!” at the top of his lungs. Still, there’s always Philip “Solon” Madoc looking very shifty to pass the time.
Madoc is Stepan, a Republic of the Balkans embassy official and the brother-in-law of President Yakob Borb (Paul Stassino). There’s no love lost between him and his ladies’ man bro, and dark deeds are taking place with the embassy confines, but who is responsible proves elusive. Steed is called in, or rather calls Venus in as a replacement, when Borb’s private secretary is murdered by Mongo. Steed isn’t buying that she slipped and broke her neck in the shower; “I shouldn’t like a similar accident to happen to you” he informs the President.
The trail leads to wrestling bouts at the public baths, where the Butcher…
The Avengers 3.20: The
Little Wonders More
memorable for Steed (undercover, naturally) planting a smoocher on a surprised
Mrs Gale than its plot of Mafia-esque “clergymen” electing their new leader.
This isn’t bad, and Macnee’s having a lot of fun as the Vicar of M’boti, but
you can’t help feel it should have been a lot more lunatic.
Beardmore: What if
he’s a phoney, and doesn’t know Harbottle was playing a double game? The mob
organisation is known as Bibliotek, and Steed is replacing the deceased Reverend
Harbottle who, we learn, has been involved with another group led by Sister
Johnson (Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell, who strikes a very Bond-esque image at one point, blazing away with a machine gun in a
nurse’s uniform). She’s posing as the carer of the Bishop (David Bauer), the
head of Bibliotek, while attempting to bring about his demise with Dr Beardmore
(Tony Steedman of Citizen Smith).
Complicating matters in a way that fails to really elicit interest is a German
doll containing mi…